Life Update 02: It was a hell of a crazy year


It’s been said so many times in the last few days of 2020, but I’m afraid you’ll have to hear it one more (last?) time: 2020 was one hell of a year. It brought much of the world to its knees. So many people passed away; many others fell ill. The rest of us mostly did our best to stay afloat despite unemployment, depression, and uncertainty looming above our heads.

Without question, it was the hardest year for me as a creative as well. Inspiration was more fleeting than usual. Motivation was hard to come by. Ideas were unbearably elusive. I couldn’t bring myself to risk going out to meet with people for a shoot, or even go on photowalks by myself. I dislike myself as a subject, so working with self-portraits was not an option. As a result, I didn’t do any photography projects. In fact, I hardly took photos at all, and the ones I took, I didn’t like. 

Not being creative did take its toll on me. How could I still call myself a photographer or zine maker? On most days, I kept looking at my old work, thinking that they represent a part of me that had already gone. Some days, I would be reminded of my pending projects like Hair and the several zines I planned to finish last year. Being unemployed for months gave me some time, but my mind and heart just weren’t in the right place for anything else but functioning in survival mode.  My energy and resources were also depleted. I didn’t expect that self-preservation would be this debilitating.

Still, I consider myself lucky to have reconnected with some fellow film photographers. We thought about putting together a project that was fueled by our own experiences and desire for creative accountability. During our Saturday meetings, we decided to submit to Spacebar Zine’s call-out for the 2020 Bangkok Art Book Fair with the theme “Nostalgia.” We ended up with Saturdays Aren’t The Same Anymore, which chronicles our memories, longing for the past, and hope for brighter days to come. Together, we also re-launched Tiny Print Room, an independent print and design studio with a passion for all things print.

I spent most of 2020 in hiding, in limbo. In any case, 2021 is still a chance for a fresh start. Maybe it’s not going to be much different, but I’d like to think we’re now much better equipped to deal with the remnants of 2020.  The outside world still frightens me so much, but I’m also reconciling with the fact that I have to start living life again – with very strict precautions. The first week of the year also got me thinking about picking up a camera again. I can only hope that these thoughts will soon lead to actual projects and the fulfillment that can only come from being creative.

Happy New Year and I hope 2021 will be a much better and forgiving one for us all. 


Buy Me a Coffee?

The pandemic hasn’t been kind especially to artists and creatives. I am only one of many who are currently grappling with its mental, emotional, and financial toll. Still, I consider myself to be lucky that I’m able to write about my biggest passions until now: film photography (and photography in general), travel, and zines. While it has become more challenging to do both as a profession and a personal endeavor due to the pandemic, I remain hopeful that I can keep doing it. If you enjoyed reading my work across various websites and publications, please consider supporting me here:

buymeacoffee.com/thecaffeinated

For the price of a cup of coffee, you will definitely help keep me writing, creating, and sharing stories, especially in these trying times. Please do keep an eye out on the platform as I will be posting about special offers of my prints and zines there!

Thank you so much for your support!



Life Update 01: Photography, Creativity, and Everything Else During the Pandemic

Outside, sounds of traffic and activity fill the street again on the daily. I hear the familiar beeps and angry honks of cars and jeepneys. People talking loudly. Carts being pushed next to the curb. Street vendors waking up half the streets, announcing their goods for sale. It’s hard to believe that four months ago, I could hardly hear or see anything out in the streets. Since June, however, the ghost towns of Metro Manila have been inching back to busy-ness with the easing of COVID-19 community quarantine. But it actually gives off a false sense of going back to normal. We’re far from safe, far from normal. I’ve been mostly holed up in the house, save for supply runs and bank errands which are stressful situations each time. This gave me a bit of time here and there to think about all the things that happened since the pandemic hit. And boy, there were plenty.  

But, I won’t go into the details of each. Instead, this life update contains some pertinent bits and pieces for those who are (still) curious about how I’m doing and what I’ve been up to.

DO I STILL WRITE?

Yes, but not much of the usual stuff some of you are probably used to reading from me. If you know me from The Phoblographer, I regret to say that I left the blog in April due to some unexpected and unfortunate circumstances. If you’ve still seen something by me there, those are some of the last stuff I wrote. The blog has opened doors for me, and I truly thank you for taking the time to read the stuff I’ve written there in the last three years. However, if you’re into film photography, I’d like to invite you to check out Whattaroll Magazine, an independent film photography magazine that I’ve been part of for the past 6 years. Want to get inspired by works of outstanding film photographers around the world? You’ll find plenty of that on Whattaroll!

DO I STILL TAKE PHOTOS?

Not as much as I want to, mostly because I can’t get into the right mindset for creative projects. I did try doing a quarantine/lockdown photography project on film, and I’ll see what it looks like soon. Unlike some photographers, the limitations of being at home all day haven’t given me any new ideas. Where I am isn’t exactly inspiring either. What limited energy I have is also mostly focused on surviving — self-care, conserving my resources, and finding jobs/paid writing projects. So, rather than force it, I decided to just let any idea marinate in my head and take photos if and when it feels right.

DO I STILL MAKE ZINES?

I have a few that are currently in the works. Some film photography, some writing. Because I still have a lot of films still waiting to be processed, I don’t really have a lot of new materials to work with yet. It forced me to revisit some of my old/existing photos and work with what I have. I’m also excited to be working on a collab zine with some of my fellow film photographers for an online zine event. I’ll share more details once everything is sorted out!

WHAT ELSE?

If you’re based in Metro Manila, I’ve just made a bunch of my favorite photos available for purchase as art prints. I also have some zines available here and through ZINEDICATE, a collective of zine makers based in Manila. I decided to close my Etsy shop for now because I’m not able to ship out internationally. If you’re ready and able to grab some of my prints or zines, I would be truly grateful for your support!

But, how are you? I hope you’re staying safe, sane, and well. I hope you’re able to find ways to stay creative even in these crazy times. And wherever you are, I hope you’re able to find comfort and peace, no matter how elusive they may seem.

Keep in touch. You know where to find me


P.S. I was so tempted to title this as “Pandemic at the Disco” not only because I found it funny, but also because it accurately describes how life feels like for me this year. Part panic, part disco, dancing to the rhythm of the pandemic.



Once upon a time, I shot with a Fujifilm X20.

And I forgot about it.

It happened six years ago. I was invited by a friend to join a group of Fuji X-Photographers for a photowalk, and I was handed a Fujifilm X20 to test out. Everyone knew I was a film photographer and I guess they were curious about how I’d fare and find shooting digital for a day. The biggest struggle was trying to learn the controls in maybe 15 minutes or so, until I decided to shoot in the best way I know when I am allowed to fiddle with settings: manual mode. 

Now, I don’t really remember much about the whole shoot other than: 

1. There was a lot of rushing around but I was trying to shoot at my own pace – something important when you’re shooting around the hot and humid chaos of Manila; 

2. Not fiddling with anything else but the manual controls (and zoom, I think) per shot because I was getting okay results that way anyway; 

3. Switching to black and white mode halfway during the shoot in my attempt to place emphasis on composition rather than all the dizzying mix of colors around me. When I had the chance to sit down with the 100+ photos I ended up with, I found that I didn’t really like them, so I promptly forgot about them.

Well, six years later, I ended up pushing myself to look at them again, this time maybe a little bit more objectively. As someone who writes about impressive photography projects on a daily basis, this is definitely daunting. So, out of 100+, I somewhat liked only 9 of them.

So, what do you think? I’m really curious. Objectively, of course.


Penang Photo Diary: The Clan Jetties on Film

Going back to Penang after four years was something that was as emotional as I thought it would be. But, I also made sure not to be so trigger-happy with my camera, so I came back with a better idea of what I want to capture on film. One of the places I made sure not to miss this time was the Clan Jetties, Penang’s traditional seaside village on stilts. Parts of it now mostly cater to tourists, serving as eateries and souvenir shops. I decided to steer away from that and focused instead on the human interactions happening as I roamed the village. 

There are a total of six clans that still call the jetty their own, but I think I only managed to check out (and take photos around) three of them. More reason to go back and spend maybe half a day exploring its nooks and crannies!

Photos shot using Nikon FE2 and Kodak Ultima 100 (expired).

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